Here are my predictions for this upcoming Oscar weekend.
Michelle Yeoh wins the Academy Award for best actress and the “Knuckle Ball,” from Santa Rosa’s Homerun Pizza becomes Sonoma County’s next big thing.
What’s a “Knuckle Ball,” and what does it have to do with the Oscars?
The Knuckle Ball is a gustatory phenomena so elegant in its conception that it defies easy description (maybe, favorite pizza toppings within a pizza crust dough ball?). And it just so happens that this Oscar Sunday marks the 20th anniversary of its place of birth, Homerun Pizza in Santa Rosa.
“About 10 years ago, a previous owner’s stepson went in the back and said, ‘Hey, can I mess around?’ There were some pizza crust scraps, and he put those together with some cheese and some bacon and he closed it up. And he made it into a nice little ball, shoved it through the pizza oven, and the Knuckle Ball,” recalls owner Cynthia Caughie. “It’s our pizza dough stuffed with mozzarella cheese and bacon, and it is ooey, gooey goodness. It’s delicious—it’s a party in your mouth.”
Caughie purchased the popular restaurant in 2018, following the local fires of the previous year that not only took her home but that of the restaurant owners at the time.
“We actually cohabitated—my family and his family—for a year and a half,” says Caughie, who had been a server at the pizzeria for 13 years. When the opportunity to purchase the restaurant arose, Caughie was ready to make the leap. “I was never an entrepreneur—I never even knew the word, to be absolutely honest,” she laughs. Caughie committed herself to learning everything she needed to make her venture a success. She joined local business groups and poured through business tomes like Grant Cardone’s bestselling The 10X Rule.
“I worked in the restaurant—soup to nuts for one whole year, no manager. I said, ‘I’m gonna learn this thing,’” Caughie recalls of the practical, hands-on knowledge that she couldn’t glean from a book. “They don’t share all the headaches and the things that break and that everyday ‘what’s next?’ And, oh, you walk into a flood? I’ve gone through some stuff. Every day, I get just a little bit more resilient.”
Caughie’s resilience and determination are paying off. With the Knuckle Ball, which she is actively working to bring to a broader market, Caughie follows in the footsteps of such locally-launched companies like Amy’s Kitchen and Lagunitas Brewing Company. Each became national phenoms by putting their novel take on a familiar product. The Knuckle Ball seems similarly poised.
“Looking forward, our vision is to have everyone know Homerun Pizza is the home of the Knuckle Ball,” says Caughie, whose vision is both global and local. The plan is to grow the brand into a worldwide venture while rooting its ethos in her community.
“Supporting our community is one of the most challenging and fulfilling things I have done. I am so proud to bring community together and support our local nonprofits, sports and other organizations,” says Caughie.
Homerun Pizza’s 20th anniversary celebration begins at 1pm, Sunday, March 12, at 484 Larkfield Center, Santa Rosa. There will be live music, complimentary appetizers, a champagne toast, raffles, an assortment of small business booths, and food and drink specials. homerunpizzalarkfield.com.